Survivors of Sexual Assault and Rape Find their Voice in Powerful New Project

A series of stories written by survivors of sexual assault and rape about their journeys through the criminal justice system have been published today as part of the 16 Days of Action campaign.

The accounts come from research participants who took part in a project for the Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research called ‘Justice Journeys’, led by Professor Michele Burman, Dr Oona Brooks-Hay and Dr Lisa Bradley who are all based at the University of Glasgow.

 The new collection called ‘Justice Journeys: Survivor Stories’ shines a light on real-life experiences; representing hope, fear, disappointment, disbelief, strength, and survival. The launch comes during the 16 Days of Action Against Domestic Violence which is between 25 Nov to 10 Dec.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Dr Brooks-Hay said: “An overriding concern of the survivors who have bravely shared their stories, is that their voices may help to improve the experiences of others.

 “We can only really understand the impact of sexual violence and the ensuing criminal justice process though an appreciation of the lives they touch. This does not just include the lives of survivors, it also includes the lives of their friends, their family and their children.”

“For some, being able to share their story through Justice Journeys is an alternative form of justice.”

She added: “It is crucial that we see the individuals behind the label of ‘victim’ or ‘survivor’.”

The survivor stories highlight the need for reform of the criminal justice system. They speak to issues including the need for independent legal representation, the removal of the legal requirement for corroboration, the challenges of court delays and child contact, and the necessity of enhanced support and communication throughout the process.

Emma who took part in both the Justice Journeys research project and contributed her own survival story said: “Justice Journeys gave me a space to be heard, to share my rage and despair, and to feel that I could at least use my experience to positive effect. Survivors’ voices matter, and the failure of the criminal justice system to effectively deliver justice for survivors should concern us all.”

Emma said she took part because her own experience of the criminal justice system “had shown me how little ‘justice’ there really is for survivors of rape.”

“I reported the rape and abuse I had been subjected to in childhood in the belief that if evidence existed to corroborate my statement then my abuser would be charged. What I learnt was that vast majority of sexual offences in Scotland are never even prosecuted, let alone convicted.”

Suzy said the creative element of the project had helped her heal.

“It’s given me an opportunity to express painful images and memories through writing and artworks, and in turn this has had such a positive impact on my own healing journey.”

Eve echoed these sentiments by saying: “Justice Journeys gave me back something of my own narrative, which I felt had been taken from me as soon as the justice system was involved.”

Dr Lisa Bradley who is part of the research team, expressed her gratitude to all of those who participated and shared their stories.

 “The work of Justice Journeys: Survivors Stories is that of the women who took part. We simply offered them a space tell their stories, in their own words, and in their own way – something, we came on to learn, the criminal justice system denied them at many turns. 

“What they have collectively produced speaks not simply of their journey into and through the criminal justice system; but tells of the personal transformations that took place when they were given permission to speak and a space to do so.”

You can read Emma, Eve and Suzy’s stories, view their photography and artworks on the Justice Journeys: Survivors Stories website


First published: 7 December 2020